cannabis, Drug-Impaired Driving, Legislative Affairs

Greenbacks – dollars from marijuana cultivation to the rescue of dying towns

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The Greenback Movement has resurfaced in California, giving new meaning to currencies. As the largest grower and consumer of marijuana in the country, California is in the midst of a booming business that has brought prosperity and needed revenue to dying towns. Take Adelanto, for example, brought back from the verge of bankruptcy by tax revenues from the marijuana industry. Commenting on marijuana grow operations discovered in his city, Mayor Richard Kerr stated that they were dealing with medical marijuana cultivation on a legal basis and would not tolerate illegal operations in the city.  And legal they made it, passing City Ordinance 545 that sanctions large-scale commercial cannabis cultivation.  By jumping on the bandwagon of transforming the most populous state in the US and one of the world’s largest economies into a new epicenter for cannabis, Kerr and other city officials passing ordinances that legalize the cultivation of cannabis hope to fatten their coffers by bringing in this new-found base for tax revenue. According to a local newspaper story, cultivators could churn out roughly 50,000 pounds of marijuana up to six times a year at cultivation centers like the ones envisioned for Adelanto.

Known as the jail town of the high desert, Adelanto has four prisons within the city limits that house some 3,340 county, state and federal inmates, with another prison soon to be built.  Adelanto’s take each year from prison-related revenue amounts to $160,000. City planners estimate that the larger facilities in this nascent marijuana industry should bring in taxes of about $75,000 every three months, with total tax revenue reaching $12 million by the end of the year.

So far, 43 cultivation permits have been approved, and land prices have sky-rocketed, which will bring in additional revenue in the form of property taxes. Investors and cultivators have been told they need not fear raids since they would be complying with city and state laws. But what about federal laws?  Despite states passing laws regarding the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use, the drug is still illegal under federal law, it is still illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, and it is still a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana. The federal government regulates drugs through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811), which does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of cannabis. These laws are generally applied against persons who possess, cultivate, or distribute large quantities of cannabis, but federal agencies still have the prerogative to seize property on which pot is grown, levy fines and even send people to prison.

The CSA classifies every drug, and under federal law, cannabis is treated like every other controlled substance, such as cocaine and heroin. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, marijuana) is a CSA Schedule 1 drug with a high potential for abuse (i.e. is highly addictive) and with no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Additionally, there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision let alone individual use. Scary thoughts for those of use having to share the road with drugged drivers.

 

Drug-Impaired Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Field Sobriety Tests, Sobriety Check Points

Synergistic effects of mixing drugs and alcohol contribute to death of 21 year old

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Kansas City Police took to Twitter @kcpolice to announce the death of Toni Anderson, the missing woman from Wichita who was found dead in her submerged car in the Missouri River. Medical examiners reported ethanol, cocaine and amphetamine intoxication were contributing factors to the cause of death from hypothermia and drowning. She had turned 21 just last month.

The victim had been pulled over hours before she drove into the river for driving the wrong way toward oncoming traffic. In the video captured from the police officer’s dash cam, Anderson can be heard giggling and her speech slurred as she tells the officer that she wasn’t drinking. “I just feel really sick,” she said.

Toni_Anderson_police_stop_videoWatch the video of Toni Anderson being stopped by Kansas City Police Officer for driving the wrong way toward oncoming traffic

The officer instructed Anderson to drive to the parking lot across the street to gather herself. It was not apparent whether the officer conducted any field sobriety tests or had Anderson take the breathalyzer, which would have detected the alcohol but probably not the cocaine or the amphetamines in her system. Unless the newest breathalyzer on the market was in use.

In a study published in the Journal of Breath Research, researchers tested apparatus designed to detect drugs on a person’s breath.  The device, designed in Sweden, can detect 12 different controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and some marijuana components. While not 100% accurate, it can supplement the current blood and urine samplings used by law enforcement to detect blood alcohol levels. Additionally, it may not detect THC, the poison in marijuana.

Whether or not it would be helpful for officers to have a breathalyzer test that can show more than just alcohol is not enough to stem the occurrences of lethal cocktails like the one contributing to Toni Anderson’s death. Drivers should be aware that mixing drugs with alcohol can be fatal, producing synergistic effects that multiplies the individual effect of each drug by four. For example, one beer plus one barbiturate could equal the same effect as four beers. The combination of drugs with alcohol has been the cause of many hospitalizations – and accidental deaths, as was the case for Toni Anderson.

Driverless Vehicles, Legislative Affairs

Treating driverless vehicles just like any other – a recipe for disaster?

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We have been advocates of sharing the road with everyone, and now Colorado is getting ready to ask their drivers to share the road with cars that drive themselves, too.  The future of driverless cars is here today – have you seen the commercials for cars that can park themselves? In March, the Colorado State Senate passed a bill that would change state law to allow the use of an “automated driving system” — one that doesn’t need human control or supervision. Senate Bill 213 states “the vehicle’s system must be capable of complying with every state and federal law that is applicable to the vehicle and its use. Problem is, there are currently no federal laws or regulations governing driverless vehicles that companies seeking to test or use such cars or trucks could comply with in order to follow the proposed law in Colorado, although the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has put out guidelines for states to use in setting policy.

There are currently more than 30 companies working on autonomous vehicle technologies, dedicating thousands of miles and thousands of hours in testing their driverless vehicles. But what about the average drivers in the U.S. – will the technology be widely accepted? Not according to a study at the University of Michigan built on a series of eight reports addressing public opinion, human factors, and safety-related issues concerning self-driving vehicles. The study, sponsored by UM’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), found that nearly 46% percent of those surveyed want no vehicle automation at all, while 39% percent favor partial automation. Only about 15% percent want fully driverless vehicles. Many cited the lack of control as a problematic issue.

What about trucks? In a similar report, researchers found that nearly 95 percent of U.S. motorists responding to their survey had some level of concern sharing the roads with autonomous trucks and trailers. According to the Teamsters, the labor union known as the champion of freight drivers, letting driverless vehicles, especially trucks, hit the highways is a recipe for disaster.

The last thing those traveling U.S. thoroughfares need are out-of-control trucks that jeopardize the lives of others.

Roadways are already a hazard for motorists. “As it stands, the nation’s roadways can be a dangerous place for motorists,” stated in a Teamster article on a poll showing worries about a driverless future on our highways and byways. While technology progresses, there must be a balance between the application of the next big development in our everyday lives and sound public policy that ensures the public good.

Drug-Impaired Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Legislative Affairs

New report on drugged-impaired driving

 

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Download the Report “Drug Impaired Driving:  A Guide for States

A report released in April, 2017 from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in response to legislatures, law enforcement, and highway safety offices being urged to about drug-impaired driving. It includes information obtained by GHSA from a survey of state highway safety offices. According to the report, drug-impaired driving is more complex than alcohol-impaired driving for many reasons:

 

  • Hundreds of different drugs can impair drivers. Some drugs that can impair driving are illegal to use, some are legal to use under certain conditions, and some are freely available over-the-counter.
  • For many drugs, the relation between a drug’s presence in the body, its effect on driving, and its effects on crash risk are complex, not understood well, and vary from driver to driver. Additionally, some drugs – especially cannabis – attach to the fatty tissues of the body and therefore cannot be measured as blood concentration levels as is done with alcohol.
  • Data on drug presence in crash-involved drivers are incomplete in most jurisdictions, inconsistent from state to state, and sometimes inconsistent across jurisdictions within states. Additionally, laws regarding driving while under the influence of drugs (DUID) vary across the states.
  • It is more difficult for law enforcement to detect drug impairment at the roadside than alcohol impairment. There are no BAC charts or understanding the stages for becoming impaired while using some drugs such as cannabis as there are for alcohol.
  • Data on drug presence in crash-involved drivers are incomplete in most jurisdictions, inconsistent from state to state, and sometimes inconsistent across jurisdictions within states. While laws regarding driving while under the influence of drugs (DUID) vary across the states, it is still more difficult to prosecute and convict a driver for DUID than for alcohol-impaired driving (DUI/DWI/OWI).

Drug-impaired driving is an increasingly critical issue for states and state highway safety offices. As of April 2017, marijuana may be used for medical purposes in 29 states and the District of Columbia, although these states are still struggling with legislating its use, cultivation, and sale. While these states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is still a federal crime and cannot be transported across state lines. Furthermore, in every state it is still a crime to drive impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including marijuana. In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported that drugs were present in 43% of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result, more frequently than alcohol was present. NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22% of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekday days. In particular, marijuana use was cited as increasing.

Congress identified drug-impaired driving as a priority in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. This multi-year highway bill directed NHTSA to develop education campaigns to increase public awareness about the dangers associated with drugged driving. The Act also required the Department of Transportation to study the relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment and to identify effective methods to detect marijuana-impaired drivers.

Legislatures, law enforcement, and highway safety offices in many states are urged to “do something” about drug-impaired driving, but what to do is far from clear. While the report does not attempt to be a complete review of the extensive information available on drugs and driving, it does provide references to research and position papers, especially papers that summarize the research on drugs and driving that have appeared in the last 20 years.

Watch the CNN video, “Your Brain on Weed” for an insight on marijuana and TCH, the chemical that gets you high.

Head-on Collisions, School Buses

School bus dashcam captures head-on collision

 

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Watch the head-on collision captured from the dashcam of a school bus

 

Nineteen students on their way to an after-school program had a front seat view of a head-on collision.  A black Ford SUV crossed the left of center yellow line and hit a Volkswagen sedan head-on. Three people were taken to the hospital, all expected to survive. Nobody on the school bus was hurt, as the overturned vehicle stopped just short of the bus.

Not so with a similar collision earlier this year. It involved a small passenger car in Missouri driving the wrong way on the freeway, hitting a school bus head-on and killing the driver. This bus was carrying 25 students to a basketball game.

In both videos, you can see people rushing to the scene of the crash, trying to help. This is the GOOD SAMARITAN law, generally providing basic legal protection for those who assist a person who is injured or in danger. In essence, these laws protect the Good Samaritan, i.e. individuals trying to help victims of crashes, from liability if unintended consequences result from their assistance.  All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some type of Good Samaritan law.

In the case of the first collision, these Good Samaritans set up a “GoFundMe” page to help cover medical expenses. This is an example of crowdsourcing, a popular practice of raising money for a project, task or service from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. In just 24 hours they raised almost $1,500 of the $50,000 goal to help pay the victims’ medical bills. “The driver of the car struck by the SUV is lucky to be alive and doing as well as she is, but the medical bills are piling up,” the fundraising page states. Adding insult to injury, the woman that hit them let her insurance lapse and at the time of the accident was uninsured.

Motorcycles

The more complex aspects of riding on two wheels

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During Motorcycle Safety Month, we’re looking at the more complex aspects of riding on two wheels, such as weight distribution, especially when adding a passenger. The stability and control of a motorcycle are altered with extra weight sitting over the rear wheel, and drivers must adapt to the different handling and braking characteristics of their bike.

Motorcycles are engineered for the rear tire to carry approximately 60% of the total weight of a motorcycle at constant speed, while the front wheel carries the remaining 40%. This front-to-rear weight ratio noticeably changes under acceleration and deceleration. With a single rider sitting at the center of gravity, the impact upon control is not generally significant. But adding a second person and luggage behind the normal center of gravity and the control gains an added dimension to consider. A simple way to counter a shift backward of the center of gravity is to increase the preload tension of the rear shocks, that will counter the extra weight for more normal handling and stability on the road.

Motorcycles are engineered for the rear tire to carry approximately 60% of the total weight of a motorcycle at constant speed, while the front wheel carries the remaining 40%. This front-to-rear weight ratio noticeably changes under acceleration and deceleration. With a single rider, sitting at the center of gravity, the impact upon control is not generally significant. But adding a second person and luggage behind the normal center of gravity and the control gains an added dimension to consider. A simple way to counter a shift backward of the center of gravity is to increase the preload tension of the rear shocks, that will counter the extra weight for more normal handling and stability on the road.

The motorcycle tires’ air pressure maintains optimal suspension. The normal operating tire pressure for a single body is not adequate to bear the load of an extra body, so this requires the rider to increase the pressure for both the front and rear tires before riding, especially on longer trips.  The number one reason for sudden tire failure is that the tires are underinflated. The proper tire pressure when carrying added weight is noted in the owner’s manual. If after increasing the air pressure and preload tension and your bike’s handling continues to be light at the front wheel, you may consider replacing your OEM shocks with heavy duty aftermarket. This can make a real difference in the comfort and handling while on a ride.

Would you consider yourself a skilled rider, able to handle accelerating, decelerating, swerving, tight turns and emergency quick stops? Now ask yourself that same question while considering you are carrying extra weight of your passenger, often referred to as a pillion. Do you know how far it will take your bike to come to a complete stop with the extra weight at different speeds. Can you accelerate without losing your pillion?  What if the pillion doesn’t lean as you expect when you find yourself entering an unexpected decreasing radius turn, making a slow tight U-turn with a passenger, or knowing how far your bike can lean over with the extra weight of a passenger. Practice makes perfect for the proficiently skilled riders, who are prepared for sudden changes in conditions that require them to know how to handle unexpected tight turns with scraping pegs or sudden emergencies that happen. Whether you are riding solo or with a pillion, your skills should allow you to react intuitively and correctly.

 

 

 

Mature Drivers, Senior Driving

Decline in mature driver skills ruins a Mother’s Day celebration

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Mature driver error causes death and destruction (Photo Source:  NY Daily News)

As the average American lifespan continues to increase, more and more drivers are outliving their ability to safely operate a vehicle. These drivers also tend to maintain active licenses for longer periods of time and drive more miles than mature drivers of past generations. Mature drivers should be aware of physical limitations and how they may affect driving at all times. As the driving population ages, states are beginning to enact legislation putting certain restrictions on drivers – too late for Diane Aluska, a mother of three, killed by a car driven by an 80-year old.

The driver, Ann Riolo, mistakenly reversed her car thinking she had put it in drive. When she started speeding backwards, she lost control, jumped the sidewalk and ran over the victim, who was walking with her 16 year-old daughter.  The car stopped when it crashed into the side of the building of the local fire department. Criminal charges were not filed against the driver.

Driver Improvement’s online courses highlight the decrease or loss of skills with age. Vision problems, lack of coordination and problems perceiving distance are a few of the factors that will impact a senior’s driving abilities. Learn how drivers age 55 and older can save money on their auto insurance simply by completing our mature driver course, which can help you learn new techniques and brush you up on the current rules of the road, as well as the effects of medication on the mind and body during vehicle operation and how to eliminate distracted driving. Sign up for an online course today at http://www.americandriverimprovements.com.

 

Child Endangerment, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, First Responders

EMT Firefighter on the other side of 2 DUIs

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Emergency personnel are usually the first on the scene of a collision involving drunk and drugged drivers. Their role is to help save lives if possible or mitigate the trauma experienced by survivors when the crash scene results in death.  Memories of the crash site details are seared into their minds, just as vivid as the pictures EMTs take for the record  – a head piercing the windshield, a body thrown like a projectile several feet from the car because the victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt, severed limbs, blood everywhere… They suffer the same trauma as the horrors they see at a DUI crash site. These experiences should be enough to dramatically instill EMT personnel with the dangerous consequences of driving impaired. Samantha Lopez must have been absent from these real-life lessons.  The EMT firefighter from Kissimmee, Florida, was pulled over twice in two months for a DUI, the second time with a 3-year old in the back seat.

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EMT Ambulance Driver – Arrested for a second DUI in two months

The arresting officer identified the give-aways of drunk driving – the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, glassy eyes and flushed skin, with difficulty maintaining balance. Lopez was arrested on a DUI charge with a blood-alcohol level of 0.182, more than twice the legal limit in Florida.

Lopez shouldn’t have been driving, as she had been arrested on a DUI charge less than two months prior to this recent arrest. Records show that Lopez was accused of rear-ending another vehicle while driving with a 0.204 BAC. In the time between her first and second arrests, Lopez was allowed to continue to perform her duties as a firefighter/EMT at the Kissimmee Fire Department.

Hopefully, this latest arrest will take Samantha Lopez off the job and off the road. It is reported that her 3-year old was entrusted to Lopez’ ex-husband.

Watch the video of Lopez failing the field sobriety test here.

 

Aggressive Driving, Hit and Run, Road Rage, Seat Belts

Beverly Hills 90210, where the Hollywood A-listers live, known for Rodeo Drive and now road rage.

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Last week, two women were arrested for attempted murder in Beverly Hills, the third  road-rage incident in the tony neighborhood of Los Angeles in two years. This incident took place in a shopping center parking lot after an argument over littering. Watch the incident on tape, where the black car slammed the man into a side rail before driving off. The victim was hospitalized with critical injuries.

Sasha Gibson, 33, the victim of a Beverly Hills road rage episode in 2013 was not so lucky. She was killed in a traffic crash that authorities have termed a possible road rage incident. According to a newspaper article on the incident, the wreck took Gibson’s life and landed three occupants of her car in the hospital with injuries that have been termed non-life threatening.

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Beverly Hills road rage incident (Source:  Canyon News)

Witnesses reported that the fatal crash was proceeded by a road rage incident in which the Mercedes had a minor collision with a taxi cab. “Speeding off from the scene of the first crash, the Mercedes Benz plowed into the the victim’s car, a number of trees, and a concrete wall,” the newspaper reported. Apparently Gibson was not wearing her seat belt. Police suspect drugs and alcohol were involved.

In a second incident that same year, police were on the lookout for a suspect of road rage for attempted murder when surveillance cameras caught a white BMW car ramming the victim on a bicycle against a garbage bin. The victim had gotten into a dispute with the driver, lost his cool and punched the suspect in the face. The driver then chased the bicyclist into the alley, tried to kill the victim and then peeled away.

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Robert E. Doyle, Road Rage Suspect, Arrested for Second-Degree Murder (Source:  Citrus County Arrest Report Archives)

Meanwhile, a different case of road rage ensued in the Beverly Hills across the country in sunny Florida. The victim’s wife told police Robert E. Doyle was driving aggressively and they followed him home to get his address to give to law enforcement. When they parked in front of the house, they saw Doyle get out of his vehicle with a weapon pointed at them. The victim, Candelario Gonzalez, got out of his car to confront the suspect, when he was shot. Doyle then pointed the gun at the other occupants of the car, Gonzalez’ wife, daughter and grandson, and demanded they get out of the car until law enforcement arrived on the scene. Doyle was arrested and held without bail, charged with second-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill.

The original story of the Beverly Hills, Florida incident reported in Citrus Times Online.

Motorcycles

First Aid Tips for Motorcyclists

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 Injuries that await the unskilled motorcycle rider: shock, damage to the head, neck and spine, blood loss, traumatic wounds, burns, fractures, and unconsciousness

Continuing our celebration of Motorcycle Safety month, we look at how riding a motorcycle has the potential to cause life-threatening injuries. The best protection is to take a first aid course such as those offered by the American Red Cross and others. If you do happen to come across a motorcyclist in trouble because he or she has suffered injuries from a crash, call 911. Every minute counts when someone’s life is at risk. Look around for street signs or location identifyers so you can inform the 911 dispatchers for first responders.  In the meantime, look for providing help to minimize the typical high impact injuries that come with crashes:

  • the ability to breathe effectively,
  • minimize blood loss,
  • protect the head, neck and spine.

The injured’s helmet should remain in place with chin strap undone as it provides excellent support for the delicate cervical vertebrae, so ask the rider to leave it in place until medical aid arrives. By removing the injured’s helmet or moving them in any way, there is a chance of doing more damage to any fractures the rider may have sustained. If there is profuse bleeding, however, you can apply pressure with bandages or clothing and keep the injured as still as possible.  Avoid giving food or fluids, as they may need surgery.  Find a blanket to cover the injured person, as people in shock will experience a drop in their body temperature. If the rider is burned from the bike or the road surface, apply water –  preferably running water but in case that’s not available. bottled water will do. Do not attempt to pull off clothing from burnt areas.

And thank you for being the Good Samaritan that might just save a rider’s life!